Police officers equipped with protective gear began clearing tents and barricades at the zone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, arresting at least 32 people for failure to disperse, obstruction, resisting arrest, and assault.
Officers were enforcing an edict from Mayor Jenny Durkan.
Durkan, a Democrat, declared the occupation of the area an “unlawful assembly.”
“The City’s obligations under the First Amendment do not require the City to provide limitless sanctuary to occupy City property, damage City and private property, obstruct the right of way, or foster dangerous conditions,” an executive order made public on Wednesday stated. See the full order at the bottom of the article.
Officers arrived on the scene around 5 a.m. and told occupiers they had to leave within eight minutes, the Seattle Police Department said in a statement. Those who didn’t faced arrest.
The edict notes shootings that took place in and around the zone in the past week. Two teenagers have been fatally shot, including a 16-year-old early on June 29.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said she supports peaceful demonstrations, “but enough is enough.”
“The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings—two fatal—robberies, assaults, violence and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area,” she said in a statement.
“My job, and the job of our officers, is to protect and serve our community.”
The department released a video compilation of several violent events that unfolded inside CHOP.
Warning: Video contains violent scenes.
According to statistics from the department, 65 criminal incidents took place and were reported to authorities in the area from June 8 to June 30. That was an increase from 37 in the previous year.
Response times to crime reports in the area, which was also known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), soared in recent weeks because occupiers repeatedly blocked police officers from entering.
Some of the officers responding to the zone, which encompasses an abandoned police precinct, were equipped with a higher level of protective gear, Best said. Photographs and video footage showed officers in riot gear clearing the area.
“This equipment not meant to be a preemptive show of force. Police are utilizing this equipment because individuals associated with the CHOP area are known to be armed and dangerous, and who may be associated with active shootings, homicides, robberies, assaults, and other violent crimes,” Best said.
Some of the occupiers left the zone in recent days but dozens refused to depart, insisting the city would need to meet their demands first.
Protesters blocked workers on June 26 from removing barriers. City Department of Transportation workers returned on June 30 and were able to remove around 10 concrete barriers before leaving because of the swelling crowd, the department said in a statement.
Seattle Parks and Recreation workers started cleaning Cal Anderson Park later June 30, temporarily closing it to “assess damage and clean up areas that have seen significant waste collection,” the agency stated.
The community garden and art installed by occupiers wouldn’t be touched, the city stated.
A spokesman for Durkan told The Epoch Times in a statement the day before the area was cleared that most people participating in the occupation have been peaceful but their message “has been undermined by the violence in the area.”
“The area has increasingly attracted more individuals bent on division and violence, and it is risking the lives of individuals. There has been unacceptable behavior by individuals who are preventing city employees from doing their job,” the spokesman said.